[ASC-media] Turning coffee waste into coffee cups; Aussie citizen scientists unite to help the Reef; and thanks for supporting National Science Week

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Aug 20 19:47:47 PDT 2018



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Turning coffee waste into coffee cups; Aussie citizen scientists unite to help the Reef; and thanks for supporting National Science Week





Dear ASCers

Today:

The grounds from the six billion cups of coffee Australians drink each year could be turned into biodegradable plastics, according to a Macquarie University PhD student.

“You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine,” says researcher Dominik Kopp.

Contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au> or 0409 689 543 for more.

Full media release below.

Also:

Citizen scientists from around Australia are helping scientists and reef managers get a much better picture of the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

So far, they have looked at over 2.7 million points on more than 180,000 underwater images of the Reef and told us whether they can see coral, algae or sand.

They’re all taking part in Virtual Reef Diver—the ABC’s online citizen science project for National Science Week.

“The response we’ve had from citizen scientists has been amazing,” says spatial scientist and project leader Dr Erin Peterson from Queensland University of Technology. “We couldn’t collect this volume of data without their help.”

Nine scientists, divers and science communicators are available for interviews. Contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au> or 0409 689 543.

Full media release below.

And: thank you!

National Science Week wrapped up on Sunday, finishing a fortnight in which we learnt that:

  *   the Andromeda Galaxy is rushing towards us at 400,000 kilometres an hour
  *   pond scum (algae) could provide future foods, fuels and medicines
  *   artificial intelligence is expected to equal human intelligence by 2062
  *   most of the world’s vitamin D supplements are made from the greasy wool of Aussie sheep
  *   ‘carcinology’ has nothing to do with cancer—it’s the study of crustaceans, who have complicated sex lives
  *   NASA’s Kepler mission planet hunters have discovered 3,774 exoplanets, and their new TESS spacecraft is set to find thousands more
  *   100 years ago, CSL facilities in Melbourne made three million doses of vaccine to help combat the Spanish flu
  *   Australia has a rich history of using wine as medicine
  *   music is powerful for maintaining the memories of people with dementia.
These are just some of the stories told in Science Week events, posts and media coverage. There’s more stories and scientists among our highlights for media<https://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=8ccd1df9f2&e=7abd449a88>.

Thank you once again for your support of Science Week. National Science Week 2019 will run from 10 to 18 August.

Regards,

Niall











Turning coffee waste into coffee cups
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A Macquarie PhD student believes he’s come up with a way to turn coffee waste into biodegradable plastic coffee cups.

He’s developed a method to turn coffee grounds into lactic acid, which can then be used to produce biodegradable plastics, and is now refining the process as he finishes his PhD.

“Australians consume six billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee grounds used to make these coffees are used only once and then discarded,” says researcher Dominik Kopp.

“In Sydney alone, more than 920 cafes and coffee shops produce nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year.

“Ninety-three per cent of this waste ends up in landfill, where it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.”

However, 50 per cent of coffee grounds are made up of sugars, which are ideal candidates to convert into valuable bio-based chemicals, or chemicals derived from plant-or-animal-based feedstocks rather than crude oil.

“Our group is looking for new ways to convert biowaste—whether that be agricultural, garden, paper or commercial food waste—into valuable raw materials that can be used to produce high-value compounds in more environmentally-friendly ways,” says Associate Professor Anwar Sunna, Dominik’s supervisor and head of the Sunna Lab which is using the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology to address biotechnology and biomedical challenges.

Dominik sourced coffee grounds from one of the coffee shops on Macquarie’s campus and took them back to the lab.

“We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid,” he says.

“Lactic acid can be used in the production of biodegradable plastics, offering a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuel-derived plastics.

“You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine.”

Their method was inspired by a metabolic pathway that is thought to exist in an evolutionarily ancient organism, which lives in hot and extremely acidic environments.

Dominik was awarded the INOFEA Early Career Award for Applied Biocatalysis or Nanobiotechnology for the poster he presented on his research at the 18th European Congress on Biotechnology last month.

His next step will be to further refine his conversion pathway, and improve the yield of lactic acid.

“I think my project is one of many interesting approaches on how to use synthetic biology in a responsible manner for the development of a more sustainable and greener industry that doesn’t rely on crude oil,” says Dominik.

“The simple idea that we are converting waste into a valuable and sustainable product is extremely exciting!”

To organise interviews, contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au> or 0409 689 543.







Aussie citizen scientists unite to help the Great Barrier Reef
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Citizen scientists from around Australia are helping scientists and reef managers get a much better picture of the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

So far, they have looked at over 2.6 million points on more than 170,000 underwater images of the Reef and told us whether they can see coral, algae or sand.

They’re all taking part in Virtual Reef Diver—the ABC’s online citizen science project for National Science Week.

“The response we’ve had from citizen scientists has been amazing,” says spatial scientist and project leader Dr Erin Peterson from Queensland University of Technology. “We couldn’t collect this volume of data without their help.”

“We’re taking their classification data and feeding it into our scientific models of the Reef, to better understand issues like changes in coral cover across the Reef.

“Virtual Reef Diver is such an exciting and unique project, combining statistical monitoring and citizen science to tackle one of Australia’s—and the world’s—most urgent issues, the protection of the Great Barrier Reef,” says statistician Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen from Queensland University of Technology.

And it’s not too late to help the Reef by diving through your computer, tablet or mobile screen from wherever you are around Australia.

Virtual Reef Diver (virtualreef.org.au<https://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=906479687e&e=7abd449a88>) will be running until at least the end of the year but if you take part during August you could win a GoPro camera. Every five images you classify during August give you an entry into the competition.

“I’ve seen the impact citizen science projects can have, through the many online projects the ABC has run for National Science Week,” says ABC Science’s Kylie Andrews.

“It’s great to see Australians from all over the country pitching in to work on one of Australia’s most iconic environments—the Great Barrier Reef.”

Virtual Reef Diver is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2018, undertaken by ABC Science with funding through the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy. The project was developed by Queensland University of Technology, in conjunction with a number of scientific and community organisations.

Nine scientists, divers and science communicators are available for interviews about Virtual Reef Diver, and how you can help better protect the Reef for the future.

To organise interviews, contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:suzannah at scienceinpublic.com.au> or 0409 689 543, or Tanya Ha on tanya at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:tanya at scienceinpublic.com.au> or 0404 083 863.

Talent available for interview

  *   Dr Erin Peterson, spatial scientist, Queensland University of Technology
Erin works at the intersection of ecology, geography and statistics. She is the Project Leader for Virtual Reef Diver and is passionate about engaging regular people to help better monitor and manage the Great Barrier Reef.


  *   Dr Julie Vercelloni, marine scientist and statistician, University of Queensland
Julie grew up in the south of France between the Mediterranean Sea and Provençal forests, but now calls Queensland home. She is primarily interested in how statistical models and new technologies can help us better protect coral reefs from global climate change.


  *   Dr Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero, coral ecologist, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Manuel’s research focuses on understanding what drives changes in coral reefs, and how we might use technology, such as automated image recognition and autonomous underwater vehicles, to better monitor coral reefs in the future.


  *   Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, statistician, Queensland University of Technology
Kerrie uses statistics to solve complex problems in the real world. She’s worked on the conservation of orangutans, cheetahs and jaguars in Peru; now she’s using statistical models to help reef managers better protect the Great Barrier Reef.


  *   Trevor Smith, experienced diver and instructor trainer, Dive2Go
Trevor’s been diving in Australia and on the Great Barrier Reef for over 25 years. He works closely with other members of the diving industry and tourism operators, runs PADI professional instructor development and recreational diver programs, including teaching divers how to take good underwater images.


  *   Jennifer Loder, Science Committee, Reef Check Australia
Jennifer is passionate about reefs and citizen science. She’s worked in environmental science, community engagement and science communication for more than a decade, helping to empower people to save our reefs and oceans through grassroots approaches to environmental challenges.


  *   Kylie Andrews, producer, ABC Science
Kylie is an award-winning producer, editor and journalist with ABC Science. She’s created and produced the ABC’s online citizen science projects for National Science Week since 2009, and is passionate about creating engaging citizen science projects that also hit scientific goals.


  *   Nick Kilvert, environment reporter, ABC Science
Nick is ABC Science’s environment reporter and a trained ecologist. He’s a keen surfer, scuba diver and fisher, and spends as much of his spare time in the ocean as he can get away with.


  *   Ruben Meerman, The Surfing Scientist (limited availability)
Ruben is a surfer with a physics degree and a passion for all things scientific. Growing up in Queensland after his family emigrated to Australia just before he turned nine, he fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef soon after he arrived.
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________

Niall Byrne

Creative Director
Science in Public

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